In the middle of the night, a low level plumber is called in to repair a burst pipe in a dingy, run-down apartment block and discovers a major shift in the foundation has sent a crack up nine stories of a load-bearing wall. His calculations confirm it: the 800-resident building will collapse within hours, and he’s the only one who knows.
A bit like Danish thriller “A Hijacking,” which used an impending danger to fuel intense sequences of dialogue, “The Fool” has the pace of an edge-of-your-seat thriller despite being primarily a dissection of corruption in the local administration. Yuriy Bykov (“The Major”) wrote and directed the film and inserts Dima, a hard-working, community-minded plumber (Artyom Bystrov) into the rotten core of local government to convince a drunken group of city officials (in the middle of the night) to call for an evacuation of the damaged building.
Bykov’s depiction of contemporary lower-class Russia is pretty damn grim. The elderly are back at work after their pensions have run out; living conditions aren’t being looked after by anyone (the government instead pockets the money meant for building repairs); and the very act of saving 800 citizens while there’s still time left becomes a topic of debate among the rich whose incompetence and corruption will be exposed should the building fall.
Bystrov, as Dima, gives the film the warmth to get the viewer through its darkness and grime. Pay attention to when others call Dima a fool – it’s usually after he shows a certain ignorance to the wickedness of others. He’s a character written by Bykov to serve as the international lens – the clear-minded, outside observer to this over-the-top portrayal of Russian corruption and crime.
The allegorical allusions to communism lead to a harrowing conclusion in this time-ticking thriller, and the action that unfolds nearly in real time over two hours makes for a high intensity break from more even-toned dramas at any festival.
8.5 out of 10 pointsReturn to CIFF 2014 Coverage
1 hr. 56 min.
Sergey Artsybashev, Pyotr Barancheev, Nikolay Bendera, Nikolay Butenin, Artyom Bystrov, Gordey Kobzev, Aleksandr Korshunov, Timur Kurbangaleev, Roman Mayorov, Darya Moroz